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What a Difference a Year Makes

By Daniel Strickland on October 30, 2008.

Game One: Spurs 98, Suns 103

The Spurs opened the 2007-2008 season with a win over the Blazers. This year the Spurs opened with a loss at home to the Phoenix Suns. When was the last time the Spurs lost a season opener with Tim Duncan? Never. In fact, neither Gregg Popovich nor Tim Duncan had lost openers before.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto were healthy and Brent Barry and Francisco Elson could be counted on for quality minutes off the bench. This year, the Argentines are ailing and Barry and Elson are gone.

We have a few new faces, but it remains to be seen how much impact they’ll have. Roger Mason looked good in the opener, shooting 3 for 4 from behind the arc while scoring 12. Kurt Thomas was ineffective against Shaq and Amare Stoudemire. George Hill and Desmon Farmer did not play.

Despite Manu’s absence, the Spurs were competitive for most of the game. They were down by three at the half and would have led by two heading into the fourth quarter had Grant Hill not made a 26-foot three pointer at the buzzer. The game was tied at 94 with three minutes to play, but the team’s remaining offense consisted of Tony making a 19-foot jumper and a layup then missing a 25-foot three point jumper. Duncan capped things off by also missing a 25-foot three point jumper.

Parker and Duncan shooting threes? That’s not Spurs basketball. Don’t get me wrong, Tony and Tim played like future Hall of Famers, combining for 64-11-8 in 36 minutes a piece. But if we learned anything in the Western Conference Final last year, it was this: the Spurs need a Big Three, not a Big Two, to win the big prize.

The good news is that Manu is rehabilitating from his surgery and already running wind sprints. With Manu out for four to six more weeks, my question is, how many close games like last night’s will the Spurs lose, and what kind of toll will it take on Parker and Duncan to play so many minutes?

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